Brandon budget up for vote again
By Bruce Edwards
STAFF WRITER | May 06,2014
BRANDON - Wayne Rausenberger understands these are "hard times" for a lot of people but the longtime resident also said the town has got to stop "kicking the can down the road."
Whether that "can," Rausenbeger was referring to gets kicked once more depends on today's second budget vote.
Monday night Rausenberger was one of nearly 60 residents who attended an informational meeting on the $3,218,670 fiscal budget of which $2,613,995 would be raised through property taxes.
Last year, it took four votes to get a budget passed and Rausenberger said enough is enough.
"If it loses, I'd like to know what the board proposes to do because you can't keep cutting," he said. "It would be great if our taxes only went up 1 or 2 percent a year but we're in a bind here and the town is hurting."
The revised budget is only $57,000 less than the one that was soundly defeated on Town Meeting Day. But the five-member Select Board made its case to voters that any further cuts would require layoffs resulting in a cut in services. They pointed out that spending is up only 2.6 percent from the current budget. The board also reminded residents they receive a number of services for the taxes paid, including over the last four years, 24/7 police protection, a full-time recreation director and another road crew worker.
Not everyone shared Rausenberger's view, however.
One homeowner said the more pressing problem is the share of taxes he pays for education. He said every time teachers in the state get a raise, taxes go up. He said it can't continue that way while he and others live on fixed incomes.
As far as the town budget, he said the solution is simple: "More tax base, basically more business."
Union contract negotiations were on the mind of another resident. The town is set to enter negotiations on a new contract with the town manager, police chief and the public works director negotiating on the town's behalf.
It's been past practice for pay raises and other benefits for union members to be passed on to supervisory personnel as a matter of "equity," said Select Board Chairwoman Maria Ammatuna. But one woman said that's just a plain conflict of interest.
"I have some grave misgivings about doing it that way," she said. "I don't think that's fair to the taxpayer."
Selectman David Atherton said the town is considering using an outside attorney with union contract experience and "is not an interested party."
With some voters upset that the town is spending too much while others think the town isn't spending enough, one man in the audience wanted to know what the town's plan is for addressing its problem
"What are you specifically planning, what are your priorities in terms of increasing revenue." he asked.
Selectman Devon Fuller said the town is in the current situation because it used its reserves "to keep taxes low for people" through Tropical Storm Irene and through the recession "and now it's caught up to us."
Fuller said the town is now back to square one where it has to build up its reserve fund.
"This budget has no money for sidewalks, it has no money for maintenance," he said. "It barely get us through the next year."
Fuller added that "no one was complaining when their taxes were low and we were using the reserve fund."
The Select Board included a capital improvement plan in the proposed budget to help get the town back on sound financial footing.
Voters are heading to The Neshobe School today between 7 a.m and 7 p.m.